Stenhouse survives chaos to win the 65th running of the Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 19: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #47 Kroger/Cottonelle Chevrolet, and Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, race to the checkered flag under caution at the NASCAR Cup Series 65th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2023 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

What a long strange trip it was. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wasn’t on many radars as a favorite in the week leading up to the 65th running of the Daytona 500, nor was he among the 20 drivers and 51 lead changes in the third most competitive Daytona 500 on record. In fact, Stenhouse didn’t even lead a lap during the scheduled distance of 200 laps. he was the 21st driver, who made the 52 lead change, and what turned out to be the final one.

Stenhouse took control of NASCAR’s Super Bowl during a double overtime period that lasted 12 laps making the race the longest distance Daytona 500 in history and emerged from the chaos with the biggest victory of his career in the first race with his former crew chief Mike Kelly back calling the shots.

“I think this whole off-season Mike just preached how much we all believed in each other,” Stenhouse said. “They left me a note in the car that said they believe in me and to go get the job done tonight. I made a few mistakes. We were able to battle back.”

For much of the closing laps of the race, it appeared that the two-car team from Roush-Fenway Keselowski Racing would take the win. Team co-owner and driver Brad Keselowski along with Chris Buescher led the most and second most laps on the day, Keselowski 42, Buescher 32, and seemed to have the field covered, but on lap 199 Daniel Suarez went for a solo spin and set up an overtime finish.

Kyle Busch who rallied from an earlier pit road speeding penalty was leading on the fist attempt at overtime. But a 13 car pileup involving many of the favorites including last year’s 500 winner Austin Cindric, William Byron, and Jimmie Johnson returning from retirement for a partial schedule.

Stenhouse had taken the lead at lap 204 and when the field took the flag on lap 210, Stenhouse was just ahead of Joey Logano entering Turn 2 after the white flag when another crash, this one involving 10 cars forced NASCAR throw the caution, freezing the field and giving Stenhouse his third career victory and easily his biggest.

“When the 8 (Busch) went to the bottom there I was able to push the 22 (Logano)and the 5 (Larson),” Stenhouse said. “We had a huge run. I was hoping we were going to get to the white there, and we didn’t, so I knew I was going to take the top. I was hoping the 22 was going to follow, and he did. He was able to push us out.

“I went to the bottom, the 8 and the 22 got a huge run. The 5 split me in the middle, but another fellow dirt racer with Bell gave me a good shot down the little short chute into 1, and we were out front when the caution came out. We were out of fuel so the fuel light was going crazy.”

Behind Logano, Christopher Bell was third followed by Chris Buescher and polesitter Alex Bowman.

“Second is the worst, man,” Logano said. “You’re so close. Leading the white flag lap there, I was up front. Kyle gave me a good push and, yeah, you’re watching in the mirror and you’re three wide across there. I felt like the three wide was going a hurt a lane; looked like Kyle was getting pushed ahead, and then Ricky started getting pushed ahead.

“I knew if I went to the bottom my car didn’t handle good enough. I already got pushed off the bottom once and I thought, if I go down there I’m probably going to get wrecked, and I don’t know if I can get down there in time to throw the block and so I didn’t want to wreck my car either.”

The races first stage, 65 laps, ran caution free with Keselowski winning the stage.

The first caution for an on-track incident came on 117 near the front of the field, as Kevin Harvick was bump-drafting Tyler Reddick in between Turn 3 and 4; Reddick’s Toyota slipped down nipping Ryan Blaney and set off a melee that swept up Erik Jones, Chase Elliott and Daniel Suarez. Jones, Reddick, and Elliott were all unable to continue. Blaney had damage on the right side of the car and Blaney’s team brought him in multiple times for repairs.

Five of the race’s 8 cautions came after Stage 2 including the final one that ended the race.

The win for Stenhouse broke a 199 winless streak dating back to 2017. For his JTG Daugherty Racing team its their first win since AJ Allmendinger won at Watkins Glen for the team in 2014. It’s also the first Daytona 500 win for a single car team since Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500 for the Wood Brothers in 2011.

“Man, this is unbelievable,” Stenhouse said. “This was the site of my last win back in 2017. We’ve worked really hard. We had a couple shots last year to get a win and fell short. It was a tough season, but man, we got it done, Daytona 500.”

Allmendinger, who now drives for Kaulig Racing was sixth; Suarez recovered for seventh, with Ryan Blaney, Chastain, and Riley Herbst rounded out the top 10. The race was the longest Daytona 500 in mileage at 530 miles, three laps and 7.5 miles longer than the previous record.

The series now moves to Auto Club Speedway in California for next Sunday’s 400 miler on the 2 mile track for the final time before it’s reconfigured into short track.

Photos: NASCAR at Daytona Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023

NASCAR Cup Series Race – DAYTONA 500
Daytona International Speedway
Daytona Beach, Florida
Sunday, February 19, 2023

1. (31) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 212.
2. (3) Joey Logano, Ford, 212.
3. (5) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 212.
4. (9) Chris Buescher, Ford, 212.
5. (1) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 212.
6. (29) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 212.
7. (24) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 212.
8. (7) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 212.
9. (23) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 212.
10. (38) Riley Herbst(i), Ford, 212.
11. (40) Travis Pastrana, Toyota, 212.
12. (13) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 212.
13. (17) Zane Smith(i), Ford, 212.
14. (35) Cody Ware, Ford, 212.
15. (16) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 212.
16. (12) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 212.
17. (18) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 212.
18. (2) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Accident, 211.
19. (36) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, Accident, 211.
20. (15) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, Accident, 211.
21. (4) Aric Almirola, Ford, Accident, 211.
22. (10) Brad Keselowski, Ford, Accident, 211.
23. (6) Austin Cindric, Ford, Accident, 210.
24. (22) Noah Gragson #, Chevrolet, 210.
25. (33) Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, 210.
26. (19) Harrison Burton, Ford, 210.
27. (14) Todd Gilliland, Ford, Accident, 208.
28. (11) Michael McDowell, Ford, 208.
29. (34) Conor Daly(i), Chevrolet, 206.
30. (32) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 204.
31. (39) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, Accident, 203.
32. (28) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, Accident, 203.
33. (27) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 202.
34. (21) William Byron, Chevrolet, Accident, 202.
35. (30) Chase Briscoe, Ford, Accident, 182.
36. (20) Ryan Preece, Ford, Accident, 181.
37. (25) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, Accident, 118.
38. (8) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, Accident, 118.
39. (26) Tyler Reddick, Toyota, Accident, 117.
40. (37) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, Engine, 26.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 145.283 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 38 Mins, 53 Secs. Margin of Victory: Under Caution Seconds.
Caution Flags: 8 for 38 laps.
Lead Changes: 52 among 21 drivers.
Lap Leaders: A. Bowman 0;K. Larson 1;A. Bowman 2-10;K. Larson 11-12;C. Bell 13-20;K. Larson 21-23;C. Bell 24-34;A. Almirola 35;A. Bowman 36-37;C. Bell 38;*. Pastrana 39-40;D. Hamlin 41;C. Briscoe 42;D. Hamlin 43-47;C. Briscoe 48-51;M. Truex Jr. 52-64;B. Keselowski 65-67;R. Preece 68-71;B. Keselowski 72;A. Almirola 73;B. Keselowski 74-76;A. Almirola 77-79;B. Keselowski 80;A. Almirola 81;B. Keselowski 82-108;K. Harvick 109;J. Logano 110;R. Blaney 111;J. Logano 112-115;C. Buescher 116;J. Logano 117;C. Buescher 118-121;J. Logano 122-125;R. Chastain 126;J. Logano 127;R. Chastain 128-132;A. Bowman 133;B. Wallace 134-137;A. Almirola 138-142;B. Wallace 143;A. Almirola 144-145;C. Buescher 146;A. Almirola 147-148;C. Buescher 149-153;A. Almirola 154;C. Buescher 155-175;D. Suarez 176-178;H. Burton 179-187;J. Logano 188;A. Allmendinger 189;B. Keselowski 190-196;K. Busch 197-202;R. Stenhouse Jr. 203-212.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Brad Keselowski 6 times for 42 laps; Chris Buescher 5 times for 32 laps; Christopher Bell 3 times for 20 laps; Aric Almirola 8 times for 16 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 1 time for 13 laps; Alex Bowman 3 times for 12 laps; Joey Logano 6 times for 12 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 1 time for 10 laps; Harrison Burton 1 time for 9 laps; Denny Hamlin 2 times for 6 laps; Ross Chastain 2 times for 6 laps; Kyle Larson 3 times for 6 laps; Kyle Busch 1 time for 6 laps; Bubba Wallace 2 times for 5 laps; Chase Briscoe 2 times for 5 laps; Ryan Preece 1 time for 4 laps; Daniel Suarez 1 time for 3 laps; * Travis Pastrana 1 time for 2 laps; Kevin Harvick 1 time for 1 lap; AJ Allmendinger 1 time for 1 lap; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 6,41,17,4,34,54,84,10,19,38
Stage #2 Top Ten: 1,48,47,22,2,19,24,16,17,20

Greg Engle